Sound Link Light Rail in Seattle

604533623_RXBdz-S[1] Finally after decades of yapping and years of construction the Seattle Sound Transit Link Light Rail is finally up and running.  With the sun gleaming in the windows of the Portland Union Station, Jo and I arrived, to take a seat and await the arrival of our fellow traveling crew.  I spoke to the red cap while waiting to reserve four seats together.  Michael finally arrived and we took point near the north east side of the station enjoying the sun beaming through the upper windows.  As the time grew close to departure, Josh texted me and was running a bit close to the wire.  He fortunately arrived in time, we boarded, and we took a walk to the Bistro.

En route we enjoyed a good round of conversation while in the Bistro.  The conversation ranged from transit, buses, to heavy rail and intercity idea.  Of course high speed rail came up too, and the faux idea that it is getting built.  The real idea is that we’re merely trying to get back up to the speeds we ran rail in the USA 50-60 years ago.  With solid running, good dispatching, and minimal freight interruptions we rolled into Seattle King Street Station on the Amtrak Cascades #500.

607585464_DmAvH-S[1]607585463_ikGHy-S[1] We all waited for the arrival of Abhijeet & Paul (our Videographer) whom arrived in short order.  With that we where all off trekking around the King Street Station fence and up the walkway over the tracks, by Union Station, and then down into the International / Chinatown Station for the Link Light Rail.  It took a while to figure out what a day ticket would be.  Instead the expectation was that users would pick their start location and destination.  This however, is not exactly what we where trying to do, we wanted a round trip with a single stop off.  After a while we figured out that a round trip ticket was equal to a day ticket.   After a purchase of a full round trip we all went back down in the station again and boarded the next LRV set that arrived heading toward Westlake Station.

604600341_T8jq9-S[1]  We arrived at Westlake and went up the multiple escalators into the mall.  There we grabbed some food at the mall food court.  One of the awesome transit features of this mall is the number of modes that it connects to now.  604598899_Q4JgD-S[1]There is the Seattle Monorail, South Lake Union Streetcar (A.K.A. SLUT), Link Light Rail, Metro Buses, Sound Buses, and a few others that drive into the area.

After grub we headed back down to Westlake Station to board the south bound LRVs for Tukwila.  I have to mention that Westlake Station is really something impressive.  It is a grand station unlike the others along the downtown tunnel system.

604537770_rebKG-S[1] 607589974_M5fmc-S[1] After we all boarded we made a straight run all the way to the Tukwila Station.  The run down through the wooded area north of Tukwila is amazing.  The LRVs ride along raised tracks that stand at minimum a few dozen feet above the ground.  As we rolled parallel to the highway we actually passed steady moving traffic.  We hung out in Tukwila for a few and checked out the station.  There where two li
nes of people at the ticket machines that where about 40 people long each.  I was honestly surprised to see this, but good to see solid ridership anyway.

We all made it back for our Amtrak Cascades #509 trip home to Portland.  All of us, I’m sure could say we’re now well versed and a bit impressed by Seattle’s Light Rail.  I’ll have a write up in the near future of what I believe, from what I have sleuthed, of what the ridership will be and where their pain points and positive points of the line will be.

Overall, thumbs up!  But Sound Transit – PLEASE – fix the stupid ticketing.  Offer a day ticket or at least just a straight flat rate each way or something.

Transit Sleuth TV:  Produced, edited, and created by Paul Peterson

Transit Sleuth TV: Seattle’s Link Light Rail from Paul Peterson on Vimeo.

I Need Add Nothing, Bill O’ Reilly vs. Amsterdam


Of course Amsterdam also has MASSIVE transit ridership, trams, buses, etc.  But above all, people there live well and bicycle all the time.  Amsterdam is not this cesspool Bill O’ Reilly speaks of, I think he’s mistaken it with Washington DC or something.

106 Degree Buses and Urban Core Activity

Bring out the riders.  Tonight was a mighty toasty 80+ I'd guess.  The #9, down to a frequency of every 30 minutes had a full load of about 38 people aboard.  My guess, everyone is wondering around out in the heat since we only get about 2-6 weeks of this heat at the most.  Personally I'm hoping on only a few more days of this incessant temperature.

This brought up the ongoing debate us transit nerds have been having time and time again, that bus service needs bumped up and paid attention to in Portland.  Yeah, we have a world class system, this is true.  But I am afraid I must agree, that bus service does truly need some attention.  I'm not saying a lot, but a little TLC would go a long way.

Tonight is a prime example, and I know the union isn't able to handle this type of service level, but TriMet should have been able to dynamically bump up service levels within 30 minutes to get an extra bus into the flow out here.  Sure 38 people isn't that many, but there where more, as I confirmed with a friend, standing a waiting within another 20 minutes or so.  Unfortunately for them that left another 40 minutes until the next bus.  TriMet needs to add some dynamic abilities to their services.  There are several steps that need to happen.

  1. The Unions and TriMet need to come to a flexible work shift agreement to bring drivers in on short notice without getting slammed hard for the hours.  There really isn't any point in providing the service if the Union requires excessive pay, especially when they could get drivers to volunteer to be available and would probably be happy for the regular pay rates for the time.
  2. This is the big one, more so than the Union agreement.  TriMet needs to be able to respond flexibly to changes in ridership movements.  When there are crowds outside that want to ride, TriMet needs to have a way to track and dynamically flex routing muscle when need be.  Currently they don't have that capability, at least not by what I could figure just by thinking through some of the issues from a technological perspective.

I'll elaborate on this second point.  With a few observable cameras, that are most likely already in place, and a single observer they could monitor flows of people all over the city at key bus stop locations.  Based on that they could call in drivers, or drivers currently ready for deployment, to key routes to get people moving.  Tonight TriMet has had an opportunity to move several thousand extra people in the course of a few hours, but service levels just remained the same as the schedule dictates.

In today's Internet age, this is kind of silly that service can't dynamically reflect increased flows of people.

I'll write up some more movement and routing ideas in the near future.  Some of the other points I've been thinking about is how to improve the bunching that happens on so many routes.  I suspect TriMet could gain a 2-5% ridership increase and decrease buses on the road by about 2-5% also just by a few fixes to bunching.  But more on that later, for now I'm off to some more code, transit, and general geekdom.

More Talgos In The USA!?!?!?!?

I’m sitting a few days ago reading the RailwayAge Site and WHAM!  I found this article about more Talgo Trains being purchased!  I was floored.  With all the idiocy around the FRA limitations and requirements I thought there would never be another one in the country.  I’m glad to know that I was wrong, Talgo makes a great train set.  Here’s the snippet,

"The state of Wisconsin will purchase two 14-car train sets from Las Rozas, Spain-based Patentes Talgo SA to replace current equipment used in Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago. The agreement includes an option to buy two more trains if the state gets federal stimulus money to extend rail service from Milwaukee to Madison, the state capital.

Talgo will perform final assembly of the car order at facilities yet to be determined in Wisconsin, generating up to 80 jobs, said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle Friday. Each train set has a capacity of 420 passengers.

"Today we are embarking on a new era of passenger rail service that creates high-skilled jobs, spurs economic growth, and makes travel safe and comfortable,” Doyle said. The governor made his announcement at Dane County Regional Airport in Madison, touting the deal as the Badger State’s first step toward implementing high speed rail.

Amtrak currently operates Talgo equipment on its Cascades Service in the Pacific Northwest; Talgo subsidiary Talgo, Inc., is based in Seattle."

My questions now are;

  1. How did they get this past the absurd laws and regulations of the FRA?
  2. Talgo has stated in the past they’d work for an FRA compliant train if enough orders where made, two trains with options however doesn’t qualify for that, so…?
  3. So they Hiawatha Service between Milwaukee and Chicago, which I don’t believe even really needs to get the tilt action going, has some good straights, and could get some speed out of these sets.  Will Amtrak be able to achieve this?

Has anyone else heard anything else about this?

Light Rail Service Cancelled Completely, Bus Services to Expand x10 Over Current

There is an article here about neglecting buses for light rail service.  Also Al M & Erik Halstead are notorious for their rants in the blogosphere about how TriMet neglects buses in favor of light rail.  But here’s my question.

Imagine tomorrow, that these people proposing this where in charge;  Lew Church, Jason Barbour, Xander Dunlap, Patrick Ryan, Al M, & Erik Halstead.  What would they do?

If we stopped running light rail tomorrow how would we move the people that ride the blue, red, and yellow lines with buses?  If the budget where to stay EXACTLY what it is today – how would TriMet move the same number of people if we started using only buses?  Please, answer that for me would you guys?

In addition to that explain exactly how TriMet is supposed to not cut service, if they don’t have the money for the service?  If every executive at TriMet and every single office employee was paid the same as the bus drivers tomorrow that would only fund a couple of frequencies, barely enough to even maintain the lines they have.  In addition to that it would mean we’d lose transit tracker, scheduling would have to be printed and we’d probably lose the TriMet website just to point out a few things.  So when the ridership plummets what is the proposal to fix that?

I guess what I want to see among these people are legitimate fixes.  What are their solutions.  Not the mythical fantasy of "if we’d spent all that money on Bus Rapid Transit" or "if we’d only harness the power of the sun" or other nonsense.  Take a look at the current budget (not the odd $900 million that is presented in the Oregon Line Article, but the real operations budget) and tell me how you’d fix the problems.

Another thing I’ve noticed is this Transit Riders Union.  They’re attacking the cuts also, but I’ve seen no real solutions.  Not tangible ones that will actually save TriMet the money needed to maintain operations.  If we stopped building light rail and instead put all that money toward bus operations we’d be bankrupt before the end of the year just trying to handle the rush hour volume of passengers that light rail handles.


So really, where are the solutions of decreased service isn’t it?

Commute Interview #007 – Tyler Stricka

Alright, it is time to get the interviews rolling again!  First in line is a tech community illuminati Tyler Stricka.  This guy does some great work for McAffee Software.  You can check out his portfolio and such.  Seriously, go check out his site it is an impressive array of graphics and design work!  Also Tyler is an avid Twitterer, so feel free to jump online for a tweet or two via @tylersticka.  Two of his pieces are shown to the right, click either of them to check out full size images on his site of the graphics.

Now, on to the interview.

1. What is your occupation?  What exactly does the occupation entail?

I'm a designer, artist, speaker and educator, currently employed full-time at McAfee. I help create web experiences, iconography and identity work in digital and traditional media.

2. How long have you been in the occupation?

Part-time since 2002, full-time since 2007.

3. What city & state do you live in?

Hillsboro, Oregon.

Now for the commuting nitty gritty.

1. What mode (car, bike, foot, boat, airplane, train, airship, etc) of transport do you use for getting to and from work?

Car. I may relocate soon within walking distance, which would be a lot more fun.

2. How long does each leg of your commute take?  If you don't commute, how much time do you spend getting to and from your desk or place of work?

Ten to fifteen minutes, depending on traffic.

3. How do you pass the time while commuting or traveling?  Read, write, compute, chat, other?

I listen to music, and the occasional podcast. I love reading, but I can't surrender my vision while commuting.

4. If you had your choice, what mode would you take?

Walking or train; either lets me be contemplative during my journey in ways driving can't match.

5. If there was one thing you could change about your commute, what would it be?

Less of it! And crazy stoplights on Cornell Road don't help much.

6. If gas went up to $5.00 a gallon, how would that change your commute?

Unfortunately, I'm just far enough away for biking to be inconvenient and strenuous, but just close enough that the impact on my gas bill wouldn't be incredibly severe. I wouldn't like it, but I'd probably maintain my current regiment.

Commuting Interview Statistics

  • Occupations: Software Developer, Software Architect, QA Analyst, Graphic Design, Swiss Army Knife/Rock Star, Multimedia Journalist, Photographer
  • Prospective Mode Trip Count:
    • Walk: 1
    • Bike: 2
    • Bus: 2
    • Streetcar: 1
    • Automobile: 2
    • Light Rail: 1  (Phoenix Valley Metro x1)
  • Cities:  Portland (OR) x4, Vancouver (WA), Phoenix (AZ)
  • Commute Activities:
    • Podcasts: 3
    • RSS Feeds: 1
    • Blackberry: 1
    • Music: 1
    • E-mail, Txt, Twitter, Moblog: 1
  • Commute Times:
    • Total For Everyone:  325 minutes door to door.
    • Average Commute:  54 minutes door to door.
  • Commute Changes:
    • Make it shorter: 2
    • Nothing: 1
    • No cars: 1
    • Wifi on Light Rail: 1
  • $5.00 Commute Changes:
    • Nothing:  4
    • Bus Pass Would Increase: 1
    • Would help decide about what to do with the car:  1  (by getting rid of it)
  • Total Interviews Published: 7

Cincinnati Streetcar Comes to Visit Portland Streetcar

Cincinnati officials have hopes of building a $128 million streetcar line in the city and are coming to Portland to check our system out.  It makes me wonder if they’ll get to actually hear both sides of the coin, the positives and negatives of the system.  I fear as systems are built around the country there will continue to be the skewed view of the transit planners and the extremely skewed view of the anti-transit pro-roads people.  It seems the middle ground of logical infrastructure will remain the distinct characteristic of America’s past and not our future.

So if any Cincinnati Streetcar people want some more thoughts, from an informed individual, you guys should shoot me an e-mail.  I also could speak distinctly to the conservative base that holds sway in the Cincinnati area.  Good luck to ole’ Cincinnati on getting something that works for them, I sure hope they do it well informed.  I can guarantee Cincinnati one thing, they will NOT see the level of development Portland has, so that skewed view hopefully won’t cloud the decisions for that city.  After all, Cincinnati seriously needs some help on a number of fronts.  Portland, by comparison, has made no mistakes.